Tuesday, October 4, 2011

31 Days of Horror: Heartless

2009, Philip Ridley (writer, photographer and occasional director) -- download

Demons. Definitely a subject of the horror genre. Demons from Hell or demons haunting your own mind -- whatever the source, they are a horror to those who experience them. Jamie Morgan has more demons to deal with than he should. He is partially covered with a port-wine stain birthmark that lends to his internal demons,  prevalent and overwhelming. The world outside his mom's house is chaotic, violent and upsetting. He doesn't understand it and ever since his dad died, he has even less ability to deal.  So it doesn't help that Jamie starts seeing the actual gnashy teethed demons responsible for a series of brutal murders in his London neighbourhood.

Heartless is one of those movies where you start off wondering if it's all in the main character's head but are told very quickly that.. well, it is.  But that does not take away from the experience of the movie, as Jamie gets more and more wrapped up in the horrible world being made even worse by these hoodied teen thugs with feral shrieks & molotov cocktails.  And don't forget the gnashy teeth.  As if seeing them isn't enough, they kill his beloved mother leaving him more broken than he can stand.

Is her death a catalyst or another step down the stairs into a place he will not get back from?  We are not sure but it definitely leads him into temptation as he is drawn to the projects tower his dad grew up in to confront Papa D.  Papa and the beautiful young indian girl Belle manipulate him into making a deal, a Faustian deal, if the book he was reading in an earlier scene is any telling point. Accept that he world is nothing but chaos, perform a simple act of chaos and Papa D will give Jamie what he wants most -- beauty.  The heart shaped birth mark will be removed and all can be right with the world. What is most disturbing is not that he self-immolates to be reborn sans port-wine but that Papa admits that Jamie's mother's death was necessary for this deal to be made. Jamie is that desperate for some understanding of the world that he accepts the chaos for himself.  And he is made better.

But of course, never trust a deal with Papa D especially if it comes from the voice of a child. Papa D always lies.  And Jamie's simple act of chaos is not spraying blasphemous graffiti but murder.  The cracks in Jamie's psyche are now becoming very very apparent as he listens to Belle walk him through the murder.  And only when another murder is required does Jamie begin seeing the cracks himself -- no miracle cure of his appearance, no demonic faced thugs, just a very damaged young man who has to lose everything to see where he is.

Heartless is as much the way it is shot as it the plot being told. We are carried along with Jamie's descent via his disturbing experiences and the way he sees the world. So much of what we see through his photographer's eyes is decorated by what he grew up with, his mother's religion and his father's travels.  We see Jamie as a very lovely young man which only makes his fall so much more tragic. He doesn't deserve what he was born with an he definitely doesn't deserve what happens to him, but because it is as much his own making, we are left only able to believe he was right in how the world was just getting more terrible.